Great Barrington park bench dedicated to 1890s Newsboy Statue

On Wednesday 11/13/19, the newspaper delivery boy was yet again celebrated with a park bench dedicated to the Newsboy Statue off Maple Ave. (Route 23) and Silver Street. Below is the speech made that day by John Brennan.

Click here to view the video made by our president Warren Dews Jr. 

 

Newsboy statue bench dedication 11.13.19


Good afternoon everyone and welcome!  My name is John Brennan. I am a past president and current secretary of the New England Association of Circulation Executives, also known by the acronym NEACE.  Thank you all for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend today’s dedication ceremony.   

 

We come together today to dedicate a memorial bench in honor of Barrie J. Hughes, also affectionately known as BJ, a former NEACE member and fellow circulator, to recognize his invaluable contributions in helping to preserve this important symbol of our freedom, the Newsboy Statue.   


Local resident and historian, Gary Leveille, has written a book entitled The Mystery and History of the Great Barrington Newsboy Statue.  Gary is also a member of the Great Barrington Historical Society.  The book is a great read and provides intimate details of the Newsboy statues extensive history.  Yes, I do own a copy signed by the author. Gary’s considerable research indicates this Great Barrington statue is the oldest newsboy monument in the world.  For over 120 years, this unknown newsboy has been hawking his paper in this same spot. The Newsboy statue was given to the town of Great Barrington by Colonel William Lee Brown, a local summer resident and part time owner of a New York City newspaper. It was in his beloved town of Great Barrington that Colonel Brown decided to erect a statue of a newsboy.  It remains a mystery why he chose Great Barrington and not New York city as the site. The Newsboy monument was unveiled on October 10th 1895 at a grand celebration.  The working fountains were the talk of the town and served as a watering trough for horses offering cool fresh water from the mouth of a bronze lion’s head.  


As the decades rolled by, the Newsboy Statue was gradually forgotten by citizens caught in the grip of the Great Depression and two world wars.   Eventually the fountains failed, the basins filled with debris, and the brilliant bronze, turned green. 50 years ago, Barrie Hughes, at that time a newspaper circulation manager from Connecticut, spotted the Newsboy statue while on a business trip.  Hughes recalled it was a beautiful sculpture but he was appalled by the poor condition of the monument. Two of the fountain heads had been torn off and the park was unkempt. Barrie decided to do something about it. In 1970, he organized a 75th birthday celebration and began a fund-raising effort to replace the stolen lion’s head and devil’s head fountains.  Funds were slow in coming, so Barrie eventually cashed in a life insurance policy to help make up the difference. Two sculptors from Connecticut were commissioned to recreate the fountain heads, using old photos as a guide, and these were installed in 1973.  The harsh New England weather and acid rain continued to take their toll on the Newsboy’s bronze skin and the monument’s dolomite base. A 1989 examination by sculpture doctors from Boston indicated the entire statue was in need of immediate medical attention.  By 1992, local fund-raising efforts by members of the Great Barrington Historical Society had proven inadequate. At that point, Frank Gennarelli, a North Andover, Massachusetts, newspaper executive stepped in and a significant fund-raising effort helped raise $15,000 to have the ailing Newsboy nursed back to health.  This restoration project was coordinated and supervised by a few individuals within the Great Barrington Historical Society, a non-profit organization independent of town government. All work was completed in 1993 at no cost to the taxpayers. Two plaques were erected in 1995 during the 100th anniversary recognizing the generous financial contributions of several organizations and individuals.    One year later, the water for the fountains was turned off by an employee of the Great Barrington Fire District which is an independent entity not under the control of town government.  The reason offered was someone had to pay for the water. It was not until 2003, NEACE provided financial assistance to turn the water back on by financing the installation of a re-circulating water system, cleverly designed by a town employee.  Although the water is flowing, it is no longer potable. In 2016, The Great Barrington Historical Society Commission under the leadership of Paul Ivory, pledged that annual inspection will take place so that, hopefully, another restoration is not needed two decades from now.  


I notified some past NEACE presidents about today’s dedication ceremony.  These folks have retired from the industry and 3 sent me unsolicited remarks about Barrie I’d like to share with you.


Rob Sypek wrote - I think it was a great job by NEACE to honor Barrie in this manner, however I was sad to hear of his passing. I recall one of my first conferences, like as a District or Zone Manager, and Barrie gave a presentation on the newsboy statue. He was so passionate about it and over the years I soon realized just how involved he was with it for many, many years... From that point forward I always thought of him whenever the newsboy statue was brought up in discussion. 


Andy Eick commented- What a nice gesture, and thanks for sharing. BJ was a dear friend of Frank Gennarelli, which of course meant I absolutely had to patronize him whenever possible. Frank bought miniatures of the newsboy statue from BJ, and awarded it annually to our Carrier of the Year. My best purchase from BJ (which is on my desk in my office RIGHT NOW) was a desktop paperweight in the shape of a broadsheet newspaper, with USA Today's page one of the Sox winning it all in 2004. Bought them for my entire team that year.


Don Waterman remarked - This is such a thoughtful and wonderful act for NEACE.  I am so proud of the officers and board. Barry was certainly a unique and colorful circulation professional.  His heart was always with circulators and especially with youth carriers which remain near and dear to us old timers.

As you may know, he lived for many years in a development adjacent to mine in Florida. He was a fighter to the end.  Not even a year ago, he was organizing an effort to retrieve the Newsboy Hall of Fame from Washington DC and actively looking for a new home. On my next MA Pike commute, I'm going to detour to Great Barrington and stop and talk with him awhile. 


At this time, I’d like to introduce Richard Hughes, the son of Barrie Hughes, the man we honor today to say a few words.


Is there anyone in attendance today that would like to say a few words about Barrie?


Closing remarks

Newspaper distribution has changed dramatically over the last few decades.  Moving from boys hawking newspapers on street corners, to boys delivering directly to people’s homes, girls becoming carriers, newspapers changing publication cycles from afternoon to morning distribution, and the resulting move to adult motor route carriers.  Today, the newspaper industry is engulfed in the digital age and the days of newsboys performing home delivery is slowing fading. Whether a newspaper publishes a print copy or a digital copy, what is not fading and can never fade, is the important role the press plays in our democracy in the delivery of the news.  

 

In closing, again I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time today to attend this dedication ceremony, safe travels everyone and have a NEACE day. 

 

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